The Long Way Home 12.2.22

The advertisements on my social media are dominated by journals, of all types. Electronic, leather-bound, or low-cost paper. From a few dollars to more than a Benjamin. And they promise to help me do or be something that I’m not today. There are plain, blank-page journals to those with motivational prompts that will increase productivity, change bad habits, lose weight or find my values.

I have been a journal junkie from time to time. When we first moved to the North Shore in the 1990s I wrote in journals daily for several years. Mostly about the shimmering Aspen trees, flaming sunrises, and crashing waves, but also the daily comings and goings of the Fernlund household. 

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried “journaling” but it is a hard habit to maintain. It’s nice to have some record of our lives, but most of us aren’t very good at keeping the journal current. I know I’m not.

As a fast-rising phony executive in my younger days, I sought out the Franklin Daily Planner to get me organized. It had two pages for each workday that were broken down with one calendar page for hourly scheduling and a list of tasks that you could prioritize. The other page was for notes. 

When I used it as intended, I believe it made me a better, more effective manager. The calendar, in the days preceding computers and the internet, was useful for keeping me in places where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be there. The task lists kept my procrastination, a chronic problem, somewhat under control. And the notes section was useful for when I had to reconstruct a conversation or action months after the fact. Attorneys like it when you have those “contemporaneous notes” to bolster the case. 

I was a sucker back then for tools that were intended to boost my productivity, despite the fact they never seemed to work as advertised.

In Richfield around 1970, the neighborhood gang would sit around and talk about what we would do after high school. One of the guys hoped to get hired at the US Post Office like his uncle. Most of us were less certain, and I was absolutely positive I didn’t want to work for the Post Office. My two career options according to the guidance counselor were forest ranger and lawyer. 

Finding transportation laws and regulations seemed to fit the lawyer track.

As I got started in the freight game I discovered Success Magazine which, unbeknownst to me was started in 1897 and as it turns out is still published today. According to its website the magazine, “offers advice on best business practices, inspiration from major personalities in business and entertainment, and motivation to improve the mind and body so that our readers are in the best possible mental and physical shape to compete and reach their goals.”

One article back then suggested writing down your goals and objectives for how you want your life to go. I dutifully wrote down where I wanted to be professionally in five and ten-year increments. Then, just as dutifully, I put the list away and forgot about it. I happened upon that list, 20 years later, and was stunned to see that, for the most part, my professional career actually met my goals.

Writing things down matters.